Often times all we need in order to do what needs to be done is to acknowledge what God is already doing. Allow me to unpack this simple thought.
If we are honest, the reason why things do not get done in our lives or ministry is not because we lack qualifications to do them or because they are impossible to do, but because our energy tank is running on empty. We feel we just don’t have it in us.
An empty energy tank can be the result of many things, such as a lack of planning, lack of balance, and even lack of common sense. In most of our lives, however, the most common reason that we experience emptiness (resulting in stagnation) is due to a lack of encouragement. Regardless of who we are, we all need encouragement to thrive. Without encouragement, the insecurities that already exist in each of us are magnified, and begin to take over.
Have you ever caught yourself being overly preoccupied with the details that need to get fixed and never get fixed? That happens when insecurities and lack of confidence have already taken over, much like weeds in a garden. Over-preoccupation and stress have never fixed anything. In fact, they only add aggravation to the frustration.
What we truly need is solid encouragement.
It’s during times like these that God steps in, comes close, and does what he said he would do—he encourages. The Spirit of God is called by Jesus “The Counselor” (John 14:16) and the Spirit’s job is to encourage us by reminding us of all that Jesus said to us (John 14:26). There are four words of Jesus that I can think of that pretty much cover everything when it comes to the lack of encouragement that causes stagnation.
1. “[Father], you have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). We are loved as the Son is loved by the Father. Although at times we might not receive accolades and affirmation from others in regard to the work we are doing, we are reminded that if the Son is always loved and accepted by the Father, so are we (Gal. 4:6). He is for us.
2. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). Jesus said that the Counselor (The Spirit) would never abandon us. This means that even though at times we feel alone, and trust me ministry can be very lonely, we are never alone. He is in it with us.
3. “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’... your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:25-34). Jesus promises that all our needs would always be met by the Father. Even though at times the church’s finances, the fundraising, the outstanding bills and the fear of not meeting our family’s needs might seem to challenge this promise, He has promised to always come through. He cares about us.
4. “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus is building his Church and that includes our local churches. We have all felt the overbearing pressure to build a successful ministry. This word alleviates all the pressure because according to it, no one loves our church more than Jesus does. In the end, it is his work.
I have found that whenever the Spirit reminds us of these words, it is never left abstract. The Spirit is always pairing these truths to facts. Jesus’ words are always backed up with whatever he (the Spirit) is doing in the present. These are the facts that we often ignore. He is opening our eyes to see how he is constantly using our work (and failures) to build others up. He wants us to see how he is building our character through our struggles. He wants us to see how he has met our need today. Trust me, it is all there.
I believe that if we would just be sensitive to what God is doing in the present, we would be able to see him working in us, for us, and through us. The problem is that we are rarely attentive. We are too busy looking for our own ways to make things happen in a failed attempt to find our own encouragement. Saint Augustine’s words perfectly apply to what we are talking about here. He wrote: "Why are you relying on yourself, only to find yourself unreliable?" Instead, we should rely on the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). To rely on the Spirit is to be attentive to the Spirit.
If we could just slow down or maybe even stop, we might just see what the Counselor is doing in the present. He is trying to encourage us out of our paralysis. Can you sense him encouraging you?